Jari Mäenpää has come a long way since he left folk metallers Ensiferum back in 2004. The Finnish guitarist extraordinaire risked his solid position in the Ensiferum ranks to pursue Wintersun, which, at the time, was merely intended as a ‘side project’ and simply looked to be the work of just another folk metal musician from Scandinavia.
Any indications of a mediocre ‘project’ were shrugged off when he – along with drummer Kai Hahto – released Wintersun’s self-titled debut later in the year; this was a record that not only made a statement of intent, but hinted that they could go on to musically dwarf Ensiferum.
A few years passed and Jari spoke of an ambitious album. It got plenty of people talking and the hype built, but delay after delay led to the release date of the album being changed on a number of occasions. TIME I was taking its sweet time in emerging itself and it soon became the widespread joke of the metal world to poke fun at the irony of the record’s title.
When it came to October of last year, a collection of great songs rewarded those who waited with bated breath for the six years it took to record. Wintersun certainly didn’t disappoint. They offered a wholly unique sound, fresh with a magnificent symphonic grandeur, melodically influenced by Japanese music, featuring a stunning vocal performance from Jari and with some tracks racking up over 200 intricate layers of sound.
So, how would such a laboured and precise album transform to a grittier live environment? ??The answer is: brilliantly. The quartet’s talents really came to life to make an unstoppable live performance in Newcastle. The new material sounded strong even without the obvious orchestral advantages that the second album has.
Sons Of Winter And Stars was a testament to this with its heavier-ended riffs and progressive structures beautifully shifting from escapist interludes to aggressive barrages of frantic verses. But the emphasis wasn’t just on TIME I.
Wintersun may have an easier task revisiting their older material, but that didn’t make classic tracks such as Death And The Healing and Sleeping Stars any less enjoyable. The latter was performed fantastically with that massive chorus showing Wintersun’s Scandinavian roots still wondrously dazzling like the Northern Lights on a frosty night.
Throughout the concert, there was such an impressive set of vocal transitions from Jari, shifting with ease between his melodic highs on epic choruses to his rabidly screamed vocalising styles in the more melodeathy sections.
Winter Madness brought a summer madness to the central crowd with a similar vein of melodeath, as a pit opened up in appreciation of the furiously paced blastbeats and folky guitar lines.
Time was the set highlight and clearly a track that a lot of people were eagerly hoping to hear. The song was received with open arms and voiced throats and it was easy to hear why it had such an impact as soon as Jari’s voice was heard belting out the heartwarming chorus.
Wintersun produced such a rousing, professional performance that reaffirmed our initial suspicions that they could become a huge international metal success. Despite what setbacks they may have faced, Wintersun charismatically begin the run-up to the release of TIME II – in 2014 – with a head of steam building and a fanbase that’s rapidly expanding.